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NCHSAA girls tennis championships: Green Hope, Charlotte Catholic, Maiden, Raleigh Charter win titles

The N.C. High School Athletic Association girls tennis dual-team championships were completed on Saturday with three familiar names and one new one taking home the hardware. Green Hope (4A), Charlotte Catholic (3A), Maiden (2A), and Raleigh Charter (1A) got victories to come away with titles over Myers Park, East Chapel Hill, Durham School of the Arts, and Pine Lake Prep, respectively.

Here are a few notes and a few quotes from all four matches.

4A championship

Green Hope 5, Myers Park 3: These teams have owned the 4A state championships and clashed for a third straight time. Myers Park (Charlotte, N.C.) won in 2016, but Green Hope (Cary, N.C.) repeated as titlists with this year’s rubber match win despite losing the tournament’s marquee matchup in No. 1 singles.

Myers Park (21-2) junior Katie Weber turned a bruising three-hour battle punctuated with extended volley after volley into a clutch win over Green Hope (19-0) nemesis Katie Andreini. Weber won her sets 7-6, 7-6, with 7-5 tiebreakers in each. The win denied the Falcons a fifth singles victory that would have given them the title, pushing play into a doubles showdown for the crown.

“We’ve played multiple times, so it’s always a dogfight. We’ve both beaten each other before,” Weber said of her singles win over Andreini, who is a good friend. “It’s just who’s the better player on a given day.”

Andreini found redemption with doubles teammate Anna Rico. They defeated Myers Park’s Emily Holderness and Elyse Duley 10-6 to seal the win, and Andreini was named 4A MVP.

“I knew it was really important to rebound after singles, and I knew that I just had to put it behind me and just keep fighting and do it for the team,” Andreini said. “Anna and I worked hard, and we got the win today, so that’s all that matters. To win two [championships] in a row just shows how strong of a team we are.”

Rico, fresh off an individual doubles championship last week with teammate Sophia Gray when a conflict kept Andreini away from that tournament, was thrilled to be the duo that clinched the dual-team title.

“I played well, but conditions were hard,” she said. “It was windy and a little cold. We persevered, and it wasn’t our easiest match, but we got the job done.”

Green Hope coach Pam Gilbert said her players “definitely had butterflies in the doubles” with the title on the line. The Mustangs may have had the edge on paper in the No. 2 and No. 3 doubles. Myers Park sisters Katie and Carson Weber defeated Gray and Cynthia Xiao 10-3 in the No. 2 doubles match to tighten the score to 4-3.

Gilbert said she was hoping to be up 4-2 in singles and win No. 1 doubles, “and this time it worked out my way,” despite a slow start from Andreini and Rico. Myers Park coach Ed Flynn acknowledged the doubles dilemma. Play was interrupted for No. 3 doubles Rindha Sudhini and Reilly Major of Green Hope versus Halle Futch and Cate Davis of Myers Park.

“Their one doubles team is the best in the state for a reason. It was 6-all in that match, and they switched into another gear, so you just say great job,” Flynn said. “We’ve seen them in the final three years in a row now, and it’s been tight every year.”

For Green Hope, No. 2 Rico def. Holderness, 6-0, 6-2; No. 4 Rindha Sudhini def. Duley 6-3, 7-5; No. 5 Reilly Major def. Carson Weber 6-3, 6-4; and No. 6 Xiao def. Cate Davis 6-0, 6-1. Myers Park’s other win was a No. 3. Halle Futch defeated Gray 1-6, 6-1, 10-7 tiebreaker.

Gray was presented with Green Hope’s sportsmanship award. Anna Lassiter received the honor for Myers Park.

Green Hope celebrates winning the 4A title during the NCHSAA girls tennis team championships in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Christine Richman/EducationNC

3A championship

Charlotte Catholic 5, East Chapel Hill 1: Defending champions Charlotte Catholic (24-0) sliced through East Chapel Hill (21-2) in a rematch repeat. The Cougars also beat the Wildcats in 2017 by a 5-2 score.

“It’s amazing to be back here two years in a row. You know it’s not easy to have an undefeated season, and we got our last win on the last day, so that’s incredible,” said Charlotte Catholic Coach Jo Cabana. And they did it with a patched up team.

“Our No. 2 [Kaitlyn Tozzi] actually is nursing a back injury” and couldn’t play, Cabana said. “So we had to move everybody up one, and they still got the job done. What they did was they rose to the occasion.”

How tough are they? They beat 4A powerhouse Myers Park 7-2 earlier this season.

“I’m sure we’re intimidating. We just go out there and try to play our best,” said Cougars No. 1 Rose Kenny, who has won back-to-back state individual singles titles, including this year over teammate Maggie Gehrig in the finals. Kenny beat the Wildcats’ Savannah Bright 6-3, 6-2 in the No. 1 singles Saturday and was named 3A MVP. Kenny said winning repeat individual titles and team titles was equally satisfying.

“Tough team, one of the best 3A teams I’ve seen in a long time,” Wildcats coach Nick Walker said of the buzz saw on the opposite side of the court. “They played with a lot of class, and so do our girls. But we had a good season, and I’m proud of mine.”

Walker saw the finals loss as the glass half full.

“You play as hard as you can, and there’s two teams out of 113 3A teams, and we’re one of them, so we can’t be too disappointed,” Walker said. “For the talent we had on our team, I think we got as far as we could. They achieved.”

Also winning for Charlotte Catholic: No. 2 Gehrig def. Maddie Moore, 6-1, 6-1; No. 3 Logan Stuckey def. Sarah McClanahan 6-1, 6-0; No. 4 Ava Tan def. Ingrid Mast, 6-1, 6-0; No. 5 Amore Cardenas-Cook def. Margaret Nelson 6-0, 6-2.

The Wildcats’ No. 6 Jenna Kang won the first set 6-4 and was tied 1-1 in the second set with Domenica Merino when Charlotte Catholic clinched the win and interrupted play. Stuckey and Mast were named winners of their teams’ sportsmanship awards.

Charlotte Catholic’s Logan Stuckey hits a return during the 3A NCHSAA girls tennis team championships in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Christine Richman/EducationNC

2A championship

Maiden 5, Durham School of the Arts 1: Zoe Huffman of Maiden High (Maiden, N.C.) streaked through her No. 1 singles match with blistering 6-0, 6-0 sets over Chase Ogle to lead the Blue Devils (19-3) to the state title. For Huffman, who has won three individual state singles titles and one doubles crown, getting to this year’s 2A team finals was a career capstone.

“This is the first time our team has been to a state championship, and it’s really exciting because we can all pull for each other,” Huffman said. “This year we just have a little more heart and a little more strive, and in the playoffs we pulled out some wins that we didn’t think we would.”

Huffman, who will be playing on scholarship at UNC-Wilmington next year, said she didn’t have her best day, and the score didn’t reflect the match against a tough competitor who “hit the ball really well.” But she was able to keep the ball in play and hit her shots more consistently than Ogle.

“The girls played great today,” said Maiden coach Jon Huffman. “I don’t have a lot of words right now, but it’s a special day. I have a lot of special thoughts about my No. 1 because she’s my daughter. She leads by example. It’s good when you have a player like that. She works hard to be that good.” 

He said his players grew up together and had tremendous team spirit. “I’m very fortunate to have had the chance to coach them.” 

“We knew that DSA was going to be a good school, and it was going to be a hard battle for us, but we played some tough teams throughout the season,” Jon Huffman said. “We took some losses early in the season, but I think it made us better.”

Coach Walt Bestwick said DSA (22-4) had a fantastic season.

“We played more matches than anybody in the state, and I think that experience put us where we are. We have a great team from seniors to freshmen, and they worked really hard. They don’t give up on their matches. They’ve taken on 4A and 3A teams. We don’t shy away from anybody.”

DSA No. 2 singles player Jayce Gaither was the only Bulldog to win for her team, besting Easton Finger 6-4, 6-2. 

“I identified her weakness in the beginning, and I was mainly pushing towards making her make errors. She got the ball back pretty good, but I managed to put it away. It was kind of hard with the wind, but my serves were pretty good, too,” Gaither said.

“It was a good experience, and we had a good season,” Gaither said. “My team still played good so I’m proud of everybody, including myself.”

Winning the other matches for Maiden were No. 3 Gracie Arrowood, 6-3, 6-2 over Calior Bestwick; No. 4 Madi Shull, 6-4, 6-1 over Lauren Pippin; No. 5 Hannah Sherrill, 6-1, 6-2 over Emerson Walston; and No. 6 Evan Sherrill, 7-5, 2-6, 10-6 tiebreaker over Aiden Rooney.

Maiden’s Zoe Huffman returns a serve during the NCHSAA 2A Team Tennis Championships in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Christine Richman/EducationNC

1A championship

Raleigh Charter 5, Pine Lake Prep 2: Raleigh Charter (16-3) was playing in its fourth straight finals, but the three-peat did not come easy against Pine Lake Prep (Mooresville, N.C.). Coach Courtney Whalen couldn’t remember a time her team was pushed this hard this season, which ratcheted up the satisfaction of winning another banner.

“I don’t think it’s ever old hat. You don’t take any win for granted,” Whalen said. “These girls work super hard at practice every day. They didn’t come in here expecting to win. They hoped to win, and I think that was really humble of them.”

After losing to Bishop McGuinness in 2015, Raleigh Charter beat East Surry in 2016 and Mt. Airy last year. Whalen, who stepped into the job in August when the coaching position unexpectedly opened, said there could be a reason for the school’s wave of success.

Although parents encourage their children to play sports, “the focus of the school is less athletic and more academic,” which reduces the pressure, Whalen said. “We get some good athletes who work really hard, and they’re intentional about their practice.”

Senior captain Emma Rowe is one of them.

“I actually had never won my singles here, so that was my goal. It was really fun to finish it out playing doubles with my partner” in their fourth trip to the championship round, Rowe said.

She and No. 1 doubles partner senior Camryn McClure clinched the dual win by knocking off Pine Lake Prep’s Andersen Schubert and Haley Frye 10-6. McClure lost at No. 1 singles to Schubert, 6-4, 6-0, so it was sweet revenge. McClure was named 1A MVP.

Rowe beat Pine Lake Prep’s Grace Kuechler 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. Rowe and McClure, whose sister Lauren is a freshman playing No. 6 singles on the team, won the 1A doubles state championship last week.

But Rowe said Saturday’s opponents were formidable.

“It started getting tight at the end, and we were just like, ‘Breathe in. Breathe out. We can make a few mistakes. We don’t have to be perfect.’ We just played our game and got some balls in,” to seal the deal for the team, Rowe said. McClure has the superior serve, so when Rowe won her serve they knew “we were definitely in the zone” and were going to win, Rowe said.

As if being in his and the school’s first state tennis championship final wasn’t enough pressure, Pine Lake Prep (9-2) coach Dave Crowe was nervously watching his phone. His wife is expecting a baby any time.

“I feel like where we lost it this year is we’re new to this. I’m new to it,” Crowe said. “The girls, it’s their first time here. Raleigh Charter’s been here before.”

But he thinks this team’s “giant success” has brought greater awareness of girls tennis at school.

“I couldn’t have asked any more of the girls. They played at as high a level this round as they did all year,” Crowe said. He said with three freshmen, a couple of sophomores and juniors, the goal will be to return to the championship round next season.

For Raleigh Charter, No. 2 Vedika Birla def. Haley Frye 0-6, 6-4, 10-6 tiebreaker; No. 5 Alissa Meyerhoffer def. Hanna Berger 6-0, 6-0; and No. 6 Lauren McClure def. Salem Matheson 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 10-7 tiebreaker. Pine Lake Prep’s No. 4 Sophia Taffet beat Claire White, 6-3, 6-3. Sportsmanship awards were presented to White and Kuechler.

In No. 2 doubles, Pine Lake’s Kuechler and Taffet were winning 7-4 over Birla and White when play was halted. Pine Lake’s No. 3 doubles Matheson and Sriya Mannepalli were leading 7-2 over Meyerhoffer and Lauren McClure at the time.

Raleigh Charter’s Camryn McClure hits the ball during the 1A NCHSAA girls tennis team championships in Burlington on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Christine Richman/EducationNC
Dan Way

Dan E. Way is a former wrestler, baseball and fast-pitch softball player, canoe enthusiast, and one-time sports editor. He has covered everything from pee-wee leagues to the professional ranks, preps, ACC and SEC teams included. His day job is the associate editor at Carolina Journal.

Dan Way

Dan Way is associate editor of The Carolina Journal. He edited at The Chapel Hill Herald from 2009-11, served as metro editor at the Durham Herald-Sun from 2005-08, and worked at various senior editing and management positions at newspapers in Montgomery, Ala., Columbus, Miss., Greenville, Miss., Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Williamsport, Pa., and Renovo, Pa.

He was founding president of the Mississippi Center for Freedom of Information and former president of the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Managing Editors.

He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies from Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pa.